November 7, 2010 -- I finally got around to seeing this intriguing-looking 2006 film the other day and it was a lot better than I was led to believe. For one thing, it has a dazzling performance by Julianne Moore and a solid performance by Samuel L. Jackson. It also has a very good supporting performance by Edie Falco. The story is overwrought and uneven, with a race riot thrown in for no particular reason. But Moore and Jackson's performances had me interested from beginning to end.
The centerpiece of this story is a missing child case with Moore playing the mentally unstable mother, Brenda Martin, who reports her child missing, and Jackson playing police detective Lorenzo Council (With a name like that, he should have been a lawyer. That name had me doing double takes all through the film). Brenda tells Lorenzo that a black man carjacked her and her 4-year-old son is still in the car. Brenda's brother, Danny (played by Ron Eldard of “Black Hawk Down”) is a detective in the mostly-white suburb bordering the mostly-black housing project where the boy disappeared. The white cops move in (out of their jurisdiction) and “lock the place down” with the tacit approval of Lorenzo's superiors. Racial tensions begin to rise. Lorenzo knows that Brenda is not telling him the whole truth, but she is acting so strange it is difficult for him to get to the truth. He needs to get to the truth fast, though, before there is a race riot. See what I mean about the plot? Forget all that and concentrate on the strange relationship between Brenda and Lorenzo. It is worth checking out.
Lorenzo's son, Jason (played by Dorian Missick of “The Manchurian Candidate”) is in prison. Lorenzo admits to Brenda that he was not a good father. In the end, Brenda and Lorenzo both have heavy burdens to bear. Lorenzo moves doggedly forward in his life, doing the best he can. The story doesn't really give any clues as to where Brenda is headed at the end of the film. Lorenzo tries to give her support, but it seems to be too late. Brenda could have used that same kind of support from her disapproving brother, Danny. Brenda is definitely damaged. She is an ex-junkie. She is a villain, but Julianne Moore's performance is so nuanced that you feel sorry for her in her self-imposed purgatory. This is an award-worthy performance by Moore, who has won plenty of other awards for her acting ability. Too bad this performance wasn't in a better movie. It might have been more widely recognized. This film rates a B.
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